Overview

Introduction

The Los Angeles Times provides another interesting study of how InterNews can be made. After combing over the contents for a number of days, I have determined that although it does an adequate job of delivering the standard news (international, national, business, sports, etc.), it is to Entertainment what the New York Times is to hard-core journalism: the cream of the crop.

The Beginning

The first page that one sees when arriving at the site of the
L.A. Times is a bit deceiving. The page, half-filled with ads, leads one to believe that there might be little of worth at this site. However, if entertainment is what you're after, this site has a lot of what you might be looking for.

The Standard Goods

The standard news sections are easily located in this paper, and contain mostly text only articles in the given area. Each section (international, national, metro, business, etc.) contains exactly one gif. Not exactly multimedia-friendly, but they are trying.

The way of getting to stories is a bit particular (if I may exude some euphemisms), so I must demonstrate in the figure below:

Nation & World

If the above were a working example, clicking on the image that says "Front Page" would get you to the front page series of stories. The scroll bar on the right could jump right to one of those stories, without the intervening jump. Potentially convenient, but as you can see, not only is the presentation not pleasing to the eye, the news tends to be delivered in a laundry list . Though there is some convenience in jumping directly to the articles, this method of access pales in comparison with the New York Times.

I will now discuss some particular sections of the paper. Business: some value-added here as well. Same usage of quote.com for stock prices, portfolio kind of thing. Included a glossary of terms, a prime example of the kind of thing that can't be included in print papers very often due to cost restrictions. On the web, background material is possible.

Politics and Polls: provides some stories from the past november's campaign, as well as a bunch of polls conducted by the L.A. Times. An interesting exit poll is on-line with reference to the presidential election. For example, did you know that if white males were the only ones allowed to vote, Bob Dole would be President. Frightening, isn't it?

The political part of this also provide a set of hyperlinks to other politically oriented sites. Government sites, party information, and some other stuff. Notable problem: links to sites on Bob Dole, which are now defunct.

AP Stories: all the recent AP stories off of the wire are provided here, from all different areas of the news. The presentation leaves something to be desired, however, as the laundry list comes back into play. The news is current, though, so perhaps that is the price one pays for immediacy.

Section: What's New?

If you go to the L.A. Times site, make sure to check out what's new? , a cool, magazine-like set of stories on an eclectic set of topics. These articles seems to be more web-oriented than most of the rest of the paper, as illustrated in the picture below, the lead-in photo for a story on gangs in the City.

The stories in this section had more gifs and links than any other part of the paper (except for the entertainment section, see below). Furthermore, the articles read well, and were fairly substantial in length, not common for a "newspaper."

The Cutting Edge

This section presents a watered down version of the the CyberTimes , with news and columns that are web related. Not much here, but do note that the presence of pictures and hyperlinks fools no one into thinking that there is something of value here.

The Hunter

The L.A. Times provides advanced search and archival recovery through a service entitled the " Hunter ". Whether this is a cute name for a search service (a loyal hunting dog evokes all sorts of wonderful imagery, no?), it provides a helpful, organized engine to find on-line material on the L.A. Times site.

That's Entertainment!

Up until this point, I have deferred talking about the entertainment portion of the i-paper. Perhaps I was building up the anticipation, because in terms of entertainment news, the L.A. Times delivers. Along with the usual list of the day's top stories, there are reviews of movies, art, books, night life, events, music, radio, restaurants, theater, and television. Let's take a closer look at a few of those, to get a flavor for the section.

Music: New this week are reviews of two albums (seen above), by Johnny Cash and Counting Crows, respectively. The wonderful thing about these reviews is that music clips are provided , allowing the reader to sample the music before purchase. This type of review just isn't possible on print.

One down side to this page is that some links surreptitiously point to Previews.Net , a company that provides audio clips on the web, with the hope of purchase (which can be done on-line. Unfortunately, the reader can suffer loss of context , thinking that the page they are on is the L.A. Times, whereas in reality it is some company home page. A reader certainly would take a music review differently if they knew it was from a company and not the newspaper, right?

Movies: the movie reviews are well done as well, with a tasteful review, synopsis, some excerpts from the sound track, a trailer, This information is provided by the sister company, Hollywood Online , another example of information outsourcing.

Other useful items include a completely searchable movie review database, where you can specify a keyword, a part of the title, the rating, the director, producer, or cast or character names to search for a particular movie. Reviews in the database are from mid-1995 and forward, so I wasn't able to locate the review for "Metropolis. "

Analysis

Presentation

The news presentation here is somewhat lackluster, especially in comparison to the N.Y. Times. The stories come in laundry list like fashion, with the terribly non-aesthetic scroll-bar jump-to-the-story menu bar guiding the way. The look is adequate, but I feel that it is lacking the professional touch.

Quality of Articles

The articles are pretty good, what you might expect from a good, big city paper. As before with the N.Y. Times, most of this comes directly from the paper itself, so this should be no surprise.

Article Format

The format is plain black on white print, using up the right three-fourths of the screen. The left quarter is left for a control panel, and that is discussed below. The bold title of the article runs across the top, as well as a short summary of the article.

Navigation Tools

The L.A. Times provides three main methods for navigation: a directory-like list across the top of the page, a list of places to jump to down the left quarter of the page, and a control panel across the bottom as well.

The top most directory-like listing looks something like this: L.A.TIMES/HOME/NEWS/FRONT/STORY. This tells us and gives us a good sense of "where" we are in the i-paper hierarchy. By clicking on L.A. Times, Home, News, or Front, we can move up the hierarchy as desired.

The second control method is a list of sections of the paper down the left side of the page. This list was usually fairly comprehensive, allowing the reader to jump around to most anywhere with a single click. However, the list demonstrate some context dependence, which could be confusing at times.

Finally, the control panel across the bottom (pictured above) provided yet another way to jump around the site, this time with a graphical bent. This was also the best way to get directly to the help page, etc.

The combination of these three methods of control left me confused at first (which should I use?), but I soon found that the scheme was satisfactory, and probably the most complete of all the InterNews services.

On-line Help

Help is provided about a number of different aspects of the service: browser stuff, ads, site services, and member services. For example, some tips on Netscape Navigator tell you how to get it, and how to install it on Windows or Mac machines.

Help on searching gives the reader five virtual pages of information about the L.A. Times archives, how to search them, and tips for pruning. Fairly useful for the novice.

Finally, a frequently asked questions (FAQ) gives the user some basic answers about the site that seem to have troubled others. Overall, a pretty complete help page. The final aspect of this is "The Internet Academy", a guide to information about and around the Internet. For novices only.

Search Capabilities

Search on this (as on most sites I visited) was good; most searches I performed turned back a ton of articles on the subject, going back roughly 8 months or so. It will be interesting to see how archiving will be handled in 5 years, when 1825 days of news have accumulated on some hard drives somewhere...

Timeliness Of Content

The on-line L.A. Times provides a little more timeliness than the print version does, via the A.P. Stories listed above. Though this is not ideal use of the medium, it is indeed better than nothing.

Use of Multimedia

The normal paper made sparing use of pictures or other multimedia; in fact, articles often did not contain links to other related articles or sites. In that sense, the translation from print to on-line did not do much for the content of the paper.

The Entertainment section stood out here, with a large collection of gifs, sound clips, and short video reels. This type of presentation really takes advantage of the possibilities of the medium. The "What's New" section also fit into this category, presenting news and graphics while not watering down the content.

On-line Forums

Limited, but not much different than other sites.

Electronic Partnerships

Stocks and Entertainment each benefitted from associations with Quote.com and Hollywood online, respectively.

Summary

The Los Angeles Times shows that newspapers don't have to be all about news; some specialization is possible, in this case focusing on Entertainment.

The down-side here is that clearly a lot of effort is put into maintaining all the regular news services, even though the presentation is lackluster and unappealing.


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